Fresh Off the Boat author Eddie Huang wants immigrants to stop undervaluing their work.
The Baohaus owner gave a speech last month at the National Immigration Integration Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where he recalled how his father ― who immigrated from Taiwan and opened restaurants in the U.S. ― told him that “immigrants can’t sell anything full price in America.”
But Huang said he was unwilling to cave to the unfair expectations put on his parents and so many other immigrants and minorities.
“I sell Taiwanese gua bao for a full f**king price in America.”
“My name is Eddie Huang. I was born in America, my ancestors are from China, and my parents were born in Taiwan,” he says in the speech. “I sell Taiwanese gua bao for a full f**king price in America.”
In his speech, Huang emphasized that immigrants like his father, Louis Huang, felt indebted to the U.S. And though they often worked several times harder just to achieve the same pay as non-immigrants, they thought it was worth it.
“Those were days when he thought being a fragmented human in America was still better than being a whole human in Taiwan,” Huang said.
While his father knows better now, Huang says the fact still remains ― immigrants and minorities still aren’t seen as completely American. Immigrants have proven themselves to be worthy of top schools and their achievements just as admirable as white people in America, he continued. The coupons, however, haven’t disappeared. And neither has the difficulty to be accepted.
Huang’s speech illustrates the immigrant and minority experience. People truly do place less value on certain ethnic foods due to biases toward those cultures, Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University, told Voice Of America. He explained that there’s an inverse relationship between poor immigrants who migrate to the U.S. and the respect their culture and cuisine receives.
“If you take price as a surrogate for prestige ... there are some cuisines we are willing to pay for and some we are not willing to pay for, and that is related partly, I think, to how we evaluate those national cultures and their people,” Ray said. He pointed out that as immigration from certain cultures slows or stops, people tend to place more value on those cuisines. This can be seen with Japanese and Italian food, Ray mentioned.
The inequality doesn’t stop at food ― it’s also seen in pay. Even in skilled jobs like those in the high-tech industry, people of color get paid less for doing the same amount of work.
But in spite of all these barriers, Huang said that people who are marginalized should not stay silent. Especially in a time with growing anti-immigrant sentiment, the Baohaus owner believes the only way to be “accepted at market value” is to shed light on the immigrant narrative.
“I hope that one day America will acknowledge my identity and accept that I am a yellow-blooded whole American entitled to equal rights, because nowhere in our creation story is whiteness tied to the definition of an American,” Huang said.